White Raja, Malaysia

White Raja, Malaysia

Another “fragment” of the Malay mosaic is the island of Borneo. One of his shatats, Sabah, is famous for its 4-kilometer Mount Kinabalu – the highest peak in Southeast Asia, the other – Sarawak, is famous for almost 100 years of rule by the only “white raja” dynasty in history.

According to Existing Countries, the history of Malaysia in the 19th century is very closely connected with the history of Great Britain. But the fate of the Brooke family stands apart from this background, because they acted, although they were English, to a much greater extent on their own initiative. James Brooke was, apparently, a born adventurer, and therefore he became friends with luck quite early.

Born in 1803 in the Indian city of Varanasi in the family of an ordinary official of a trading company. Instead of the routine training in England, he chose the dangerous and adventurous service in the Bengal Regiment. At 16, he received the rank of cadet, and at 18 – lieutenant. However, at that time nothing foreshadowed that 20 years later he would be destined to become the master of the whole country. But time flies quickly… Around the same period, the sultans of Brunei experienced big problems in relations with the local Indian-Malay population – Dayaks and Ibans. Once upon a time, almost the entire island of Borneo belonged to the sultanate, but by the time of the events described, the territories subject to it, like shagreen leather, had decreased many times over. And then, in 1839, the fast, well-armed Royalist yacht, driven by the fearless James Brooke, appeared on the horizon. He, being an ardent supporter of the idea of ​​a “strong” British presence in the Indonesian islands, he paid due attention to the request of the Sultan of Brunei, Omar Ali, concerning the restoration of order in the local lands, and enthusiastically set about its implementation. And soon he was so successful in this that, as a token of gratitude, in September 1842 he was awarded the title of Raja of Sarawak with all the ensuing consequences.

The newly minted Raja chose a small village on the banks of the Sarawak River as his residence, considering this place quite suitable for himself. Going ashore, he asked the first local resident he came across what the name of this village was. He, not understanding someone else’s speech, decided to himself that the white man was interested in what kind of animal was sitting next to him. And so the Malay answered – “kuching”, which in Malay means “cat”. “Kuching, so Kuching,” thought Brook, without going into the details of the local language. Then, of course, everything became clear, but the city is still called Kuching.

Thus began the reign of the dynasty of “white rajas”, which gradually subjugated the entire Sarawak region by region. However, it is not enough to win positions, it is also necessary to keep them. And the second “white rajah” – Charles Brook brilliantly coped with this task. Unlike his uncle, he did not have an adventurous streak, but he was an excellent administrator. Having become the official ruler in June 1868, he developed a vigorous activity and in fact turned Kuching into the city that exists today. Charles Brook Palace – Astana, built on the northern bank of the river, is still the residence of the state governor. Not far from it, Fort Margarita was erected, designed to protect the city from rebels, pirates and other uninvited guests. Enemies, however, never appeared, and with the terrible hunters for human heads, Brook II for the most part managed to cope. This traditional “fun” of the local population was severely limited to them, although to this day in remote areas of the country, many Indian families keep these frightening souvenirs that they inherited.

Meanwhile, on the opposite, southern, bank of the Sarawak River, a twin of Fort Margarita appeared – a square tower, a courthouse and a promenade. The result is a very colorful city. If it were not for the mosques and Chinese temples, as well as Little India and the abundance of cat statues, then Kuching could well pass for a typical English town of medium size. The third and last “white rajah” was the son of Charles – Weiner Brook. He successfully ruled Sarawak until the Japanese invasion during the Second World War, after which he no longer had the strength or desire to fulfill his duties, and he considered it good to transfer his rather big “economy” into the hands of the British crown.


Don’t be surprised when you see American TV shows or movies on local TV, and don’t be surprised if you notice that there are no smutty jokes or intimate scenes. Most Malaysians are fascinated by Western cinema, but government censors are quite conservative and cut out any bits they deem inconsistent with traditional Islamic values. The TV series “Sex and the City” is generally banned in some parts of the country.

Do not kiss in public places – here it is by no means romantic. It has recently become fashionable in Kuala Lumpur (but not in other regions of the country) to kiss friends as a greeting or goodbye, as in Europe.

Be sure to take off your shoes when entering the house and never take alcohol as a gift.

Do not touch the head of an adult.

Don’t point at your feet for any reason.

Wait until you arrive in Malaysia and only then exchange your currency for local money. The fact is that you need a special permit in order to import or export a large amount of ringgits (the currency of Malaysia) to / from the country. There are no restrictions on the import of foreign currency.

Don’t offer to shake hands unless you’re sure the person you’re talking to is a Westerner. Never shake hands with women unless they themselves offer it first.

Don’t even think about buying or transporting drugs – the punishment is a forced death penalty for someone found in possession of more than 200 grams of marijuana.

Do not disturb the sea turtles that are trying to nest on the shores and do not throw garbage into the water, especially plastic bags – turtles can take them for a delicious jellyfish and suffocate.

In fact, take your appearance seriously, especially if you are a woman. Wearing Western clothes – shorts and a top – is allowed only in the central regions of the country, but this is unacceptable in the provinces. On the beach, wear a pareo over your swimsuit, in which case you will not stand out so much among Malaysian women, who usually even swim fully dressed.

White Raja, Malaysia

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